The New Photographer
by Jim Cummins
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous
to conduct, or more uncertain in it's success, than to take the
lead in a new order of things."
- Niccolo Machiavelli/1469-1527
As I see it, the above statement strongly applies to the current
direction of the photo industry. Simply stated, The New
Photographer will have to reinvent himself in order to survive.
Among other things, he will most certainly have to be capable of
doing stills as well as video, often on the same assignment because
many clients are now asking for both but don't want to pay for both
services separately. This requires him to be a photographer and
videographer, not to mention a solid editor in both mediums as
well. Clients are finding stills and video increases advertising
power by reaching more diverse markets, (i.e Internet and cable
television). In addition to this they are beginning to ask for (and
even demand) digital.
Doing stills and video is a new methodology that requires a different mindset. And it can be exhausting. First, one has to do a modicum of scripting. No, it doesn't mean meeting the approval of a Board of Directors at MGM. However, the New Photographer has to prepare an outline to follow, even if he storyboards it out on a napkin. He will need to decide what will make good stills and what will make good video, with capabilities to edit some stills into the video.
There is another dimension added to the mix, that has to be taken seriously — lighting and sound. It has been rumored that video can't handle the contrast ratios of film. Not true. The solution is how you light it and/or what exposures you employ. Unlike film, where you must be concerned with holding detail in dark areas, in video you have to hold the detail in the highlights.
The next part of the equation is sound. I carry a Sony wireless microphone and a Sony hand microphone in addition to a small set of headphones to check the sound. I adjust the sound levels in camera these days. Sometimes, I can leave my settings on Auto, but oftentimes I'll choose a manual setting for better results. If I do a press conference or an important speaker, I'll plug into the sound system at the event so as not to pick up unwanted noise. On such occasions I get there early to find the sound man and plug into his sound system.
I've found that DVCAM gives you the best quality. Where you really see the difference is in Post (editing). DVCAM tapes use a wider track pitch than DV. Fifteen microns as opposed to 10 microns, which means more information can be laid down. Also DVCAM provides two types of timecode compared to DV's one. Finally DVCAM records audio in a locked mode, whereas DV records audio unlocked. In locked mode — audio and video frequencies are locked together to provide better control during editing.
I shoot stills with a Sony F505 digital camera, which saves the images onto Memory Stick media. For video, it's a Sony DSR PD100A, three chip camera with Memory Stick (stills), and as a backup, a DSR PC110, one chip camera with Memory Stick (stills). I download the work by a firewire connection to a Sony PCG XG18 Notebook computer, and edit using Adobe Photoshop for stills and Adobe Premiere for video. After editing and transitions, I output from the notebook computer to either a printer, VHS cassette, CD, Mini-DV, cell phone, land line, or directly into the client's computer system.
The beauty of the digital system is that you can deliver a job to the client PDQ. No film to buy and process. Various digital media and/or DVCAM tapes can be used again and again; and are easier to store. You can also easily archive the files in your computer. You can even edit your work with the client over the Internet. Dealing in a Digital Domain helps to retain the quality of video and stills, therefore if you make dupes there is very little loss of quality.
Depending on the nature of the assignment, I can sometimes carry the bare essentials — one camera, one notebook, and a lot of DVCAM tape and Memory Sticks. From this point I can transmit via cell phone or land line to the client.
Bottom line — this method of operation means more work in more locations...in less time. Today, you can edit and transmit your work from anywhere. No more going back to an office to drop off film. Finished assignments can be transmitted to various locations. Let's not forget that this can stimulate the creative side of the photographer as well. Less time spent on the minutia of the job means more time spent thinking about ways of actually handling the job.
DVD's the Deal
Lastly, I want to tell you that DVD is on the way in, big time. This media is going to become the leader in the capture and storage of still images and video. Again, simply stated, you can store more information on CDs, maintain better quality and even mail them out more cheaply than most other options in this area.
Get On or Fall Off
This is the new paradigm for photography. This is the New Photographer. The method of working that I've described above is not utilized by the majority just yet, but is on it's way to becoming commonplace. The client's needs are changing rapidly. They are being pressured to reach more markets in an even shorter time frame. Those that can provide two mediums at the same time and do it while the client is double parked, then as the kids say, "You the man." The digital pieces are all falling into place.
I'll close by telling you...be prepared or be scared.